A former Harvard University senior is facing 20 criminal charges for allegedly creating a fraudulent life history that led to his admission to Harvard, and for using forged academic materials from Harvard when he applied for the prestigious Rhodes and Fulbright scholarships.
Adam B. Wheeler, 23, is currently being held by authorities and is scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday in Middlesex Superior Court in Woburn. In a statement, District Attorney Gerard T. Leone Jr. alleged that Wheeler has misled academic officials at Harvard and other academic institutions over the years.
He is charged with four counts of larceny over $250, eight counts of identity fraud, seven counts of falsifying an endorsement or approval and pretending to hold a degree.
“This defendant seriously undermined the integrity of the competitive admissions process, compromised the reputation of some of the finest educators and educational institutions in the country, and cheated those who competed honestly for what he fraudulently received,” Leone said in the statement.
He added, "not only was this defendant untruthful on his application to the university and his numerous scholarship applications, he is also alleged to have stolen over $45,000 in grants, scholarship and financial aid money awarded to him on applications and submissions of documents that were based on lies and reproductions of other people’s hard work.”
Leone said a Harvard professor became suspicious about Wheeler's submission for the scholarships and discovered he had allegedly plagiarized another student's work. Harvard then discovered he had fabricated his Harvard transcript – he made himself a straight A student – for the scholarship application.
Harvard dug deeper and learned that Wheeler was admitted to Harvard based on his false claim that he had attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and graduated from Phillips Academy in Andover.
Wheeler never attended MIT or Phillips, Leone said in the statement. Moreover, Leone said, investigators discovered that Wheeler once attended Bowdoin College in Maine and used the names of professors from that school in his application process, even though some never met him.
Leone said in the statement that investigators learned Wheeler won two writing prizes using a plagiarized submission. In all, he collected $14,000 in a research grant from the Winthrop Sargent Prize in English and the Hoopes Prize. He also collected $31,000 in financial aid under false pretenses, Leone said.
Harvard started looking at Wheeler last September, and later told him he was facing internal discipline. Wheeler, according to prosecutors, told the Cambridge school he would not attend any hearing and would await the outcome at home.
However, prosecutors allege, Wheeler did not sit idly by.
Instead, he applied for an internship at McLean Hospital in January, saying he was available for the job because he was taking the semester off from Harvard. The hospital, during its background check, concluded that Wheeler had fabricated his background and did not offer him a job, prosecutors said.
At the same time that he was trying to get into McLean, Wheeler also applied with Yale University in Connecticut and Brown University in Rhode Island to be admitted as a transfer student at those Ivy League universities.
In his applications, Wheeler allegedly falsely claimed to be interning at McLean and included a recommendation from the Harvard professor who first discovered his alleged fabrication, according to prosecutors.
Wheeler's ties to Harvard ended last fall when he chose not to participate in disciplinary action at the school, officials said.
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